News

Hendricks Chapel and the Syracuse Jazz Fest team up for another Gospel Jazz service!

🎤⭐️🎶 Big Announcement! Syracuse University and The National Grid Syracuse International Jazz Festival are thrilled to announce our visiting collegiate choir for “Return to Community: A Sunday Gospel Jazz Service.” Welcome to The Bowie State University Gospel Choir of Bowie, Maryland! On June 30, The Bowie State University Gospel Choir will perform with The Black Celestial Choral Ensemble of Syracuse University (BCCE) of Syracuse University and a community choir composed of Syracuse-area residents, led by Cora Thomas.

“The Bowie State University Gospel Choir is honored and excited to perform at Hendricks Chapel of Syracuse University,” said Professor LaTonya Wrenn, choir director. “Our students are excited to see our choir’s name next to the likes of The O’Jays and Kenny G! We can’t wait to visit Syracuse and share our time and treasure at Syracuse University!”


“Return to Community: A Sunday Gospel Jazz Service”
Sunday, June 30, 2024
Program: 3:00 pm
Pre-Event Luncheon: 12:30-2:30 pm
Hendricks Chapel of Syracuse University
There is no fee to attend the program or lunch. All are welcome.
Attendance Capacity: 1,000 with overflow seating available outdoors


As the grand finale of the National Grid Syracuse International Jazz Fest in 2024, Hendricks Chapel of Syracuse University will once again serve as host site for “Return to Community: A Sunday Gospel Jazz Service,” featuring performances by The Bowie State University Gospel Choir (Bowie, Maryland), The Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE) of Syracuse University, and a community choir comprised of Syracuse-area residents.

Following a highly successful inaugural Sunday event in 2023, the 2024 Jazz Fest will once again offer a dynamic and inclusive spiritual experience that fuses and celebrates Gospel and Jazz, includes a pre-event welcome luncheon, and seeks to spark and sustain renewal in our local community and beyond. The 3:00 pm program and 12:30 pm luncheon are both free of charge and open to the first 1,000 attendees.

The Bowie State University Gospel Choir

Founded in l975 by the late Professor Levenis Smith, the Bowie State University Gospel Choir has since developed into a world-renowned assembly of vocalists through its energetic Gospel music renditions. Through the leadership of its current director, Professor LaTonya Wrenn, the choir has performed at various competitions and congregations throughout North America. Bowie State University (BSU) is an important higher education access portal for qualified persons from diverse academic and socioeconomic backgrounds, seeking a high-quality and affordable public comprehensive university. The university places special emphasis on the science, technology, cybersecurity, teacher education, business and nursing disciplines, within the context of a liberal arts education.

The Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE) of Syracuse University

Founded in 1977 by Rev. Dr. Seretta C. McKnight to provide a spiritual home for Black students at Syracuse University, the Black Celestial Choral Ensemble (BCCE) ministers through Gospel music that fosters and supports academic excellence at a university welcoming to all. Led by student director Joshua Garvin ’25 and supported through The Alumni Group (TAG) of the BCEE, the choir has performed at numerous venues throughout North America, including the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta, GA), the spiritual home of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and currently led by Rev. Dr. Senator Raphael Warnock.

Gospel Jazz Community Choir

To honor the Sunday Gospel Jazz Service theme of “Return to Community,” a diverse community choir composed of Syracuse area residents will once again be led by Cora Thomas, known locally as “Syracuse’s First Lady of Gospel Music.” Born and raised in Syracuse, Thomas serves on numerous community organizations and hosts “Sunday Morning Gospel” on WAER 88.3 of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. All interested in participating in the community choir may contact Cora Thomas at cathomas@syr.edu or Hendricks Chapel at chapel@syr.edu or 315.443.2901.

Pre-Event Outdoor Welcome Luncheon

To express the Sunday Gospel Jazz Service theme of “Return to Community,” a pre-event outdoor welcome luncheon, featuring free food and refreshments, will take place on the Kenneth A. Shaw Quadrangle of Syracuse University from 12:30 pm-2:30 pm. At 2:30 pm, the first 1,000 guests will be ushered into Hendricks Chapel for the 3:00 pm Sunday Gospel Jazz Service start time.

National Grid Syracuse International Jazz Fest

For additional information on the 2024 National Grid Syracuse International Jazz Fest, please visit syracusejazzfest.com.

Hendricks Chapel’s Mindfulness Certification Program Offers Direction and Reduces Stress

When Sensei JoAnn Cooke began as a Buddhist chaplain at Hendricks Chapel, she had no idea of the coming global pandemic and the impact it would have at Syracuse University and throughout the world. While Cooke and fellow Buddhist Chaplain Sensei Jikyo Bonnie Shoultz worked together to plan weekly meditations and outings to the Syracuse Zen Center, the world shifted in the spring of 2020, and so did Cooke’s plans. As the Buddhist Chaplaincy practiced social distancing and moved into regular Zoom meditations and sangha meetings (gatherings in which the students can talk and share), Cooke observed the students’ needs more clearly and adjusted her plans accordingly.

Student meditating outside Hendricks Chapel
Joseph Perez meditates outside Hendricks Chapel (Photo by Micah Greenberg)

“People were lonely. They had a lot of anxiety,” recalled Cooke. She knew the need for meditation and mindfulness would increase as students returned to campus in the fall of 2020. That’s when she put together the Mindfulness Certification program. Some of the students who showed interest in the program were already invested in their meditation practice, but many others were curious about meditation and nervous to try it. While some participants identify as Buddhist, most come from other backgrounds (including faith-based and atheist/agnostic) and gather to embrace the spiritual benefits of meditation and mindfulness.

The students who came together for meditation and the weekly sangha meetings felt like they had found a sense of belonging. “When you’re in a group, you just see that you’re not the only one who feels pain,” said Cooke.

The Mindfulness Certification has three levels. The first level entails attending a beginners’ workshop that includes how to sit in meditation and how to deal with discomfort. The student must attend one or more meditations per week and keep a short journal. About 40 students have completed the first level of certification.

The Small Chapel located on the lower level of Hendricks Chapel

The Buddhist altar in Hendricks Chapel’s Small Chapel (Photo by Solon Quinn)

Why develop a certificate for meditation? “Your brain is going to tell you that you don’t have time to do ‘nothing’ for half an hour; you’re very busy and you shouldn’t do it,” Cooke says. “But if you tell your brain, ‘I’m getting a certificate!’ your brain is going to understand that you’re gaining credentials.” However, she adds that the real payoff isn’t a piece of paper, your well-being is where the real benefits lay.

Caroline Moller ’24 will receive her Level 2 certificate this semester. As a senior studying forensic science and psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences, she notes many benefits for both her personal and professional well-being. Just about a year ago, Moller’s friend asked her to attend a meditation session. Before that, other trusted people in her life had recommended meditation. “It was never something I saw myself capable of doing, because I had always been a highly anxious person,” she says. “My life has been changed ever since for the better.”

Not only did Moller feel that she received personal benefits from her involvement, but also that the entire group was collectively recovering from trauma and stress. “Being a part of this group has acted as a healing process,” she says.

University staff member Robin Summers started her mindfulness practice in 2018. Currently, as an assistant director in admissions, she is grateful for her mindfulness training with Cooke and others. She travels often to recruit future students and feels the benefit of the lessons she has learned. “I can tell when I am meditating and when I’m not. I can physically and mentally feel it,” she says. “As a parent and a caregiver for older parents, my ability to manage the noise in my life is much better.”

Avid practitioner Joe Perez, a senior at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), started meditation after his therapist introduced a visualization practice during a session. Perez realized that meditation would be a helpful addition to his regular therapy sessions, and he has since learned to calm his emotions and think through situations logically.

For those seeking care for mental health, mindfulness training is one of many options.* Mindfulness practices are considered a healthy supplement to medication and other modes of therapy, like Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Mindfulness, according to Cooke, is about paying attention. “Paying attention is a spiritual practice where you find joy and gratitude,” she says. “And that’s how you express compassion: paying attention to other people and their needs.”

Here are six tips for starting your mindfulness journey:

  1. Bring a friend! Engaging with a community or a friend can enhance your practice and provide motivation.
  2. Just pause. Use meditation as a tool to pause the hustle of daily life, offering a moment to regain control and perspective.
  3. Find a teacher. If you can’t find a teacher, try a video or podcast to get started.
  4. Persist with patience. Meditation is a skill that develops with practice. Embrace the process with an open heart and patience. Initial discomfort or skepticism is part of the journey.
  5. Reflect on the positives daily. Every day has moments of both delight and discomfort. Note those moments, and then release them.
  6. Just try it. You don’t need any prior knowledge about meditation before attending.

“You are not alone,” notes Cooke. “When we meditate as a group, we learn that we are all experiencing pain. There is pain and discomfort in the world, but it doesn’t last forever. Experiencing this together creates community and compassion, two things this world needs a lot more of.”

You can learn more about the Mindfulness Certificate program and the meditation schedule on the Hendricks Chapel website. Anyone from SU or SUNY-ESF is welcome to join meditations or sangha meetings. Contact Cooke at jmcooke@syr.edu to have a cup of tea and talk about your interest in meditation or in receiving mindfulness training.

*SU and SUNY-ESF students seeking mental health support can reach out to the Barnes Center at the Arch, which offers services for mental health emergencies at 315.443.8000 or barnescenter@syr.edu; faculty, staff and employee family members can contact SU’s Faculty & Staff Wellness Initiative for help with work and life challenges. The Barnes Center at the Arch also has resources for faculty and staff who are looking for guidance as they support their students. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline has resources to support yourself and help others, as well as a chat service to talk with crisis counselors around the clock.

Students from the Buddhist Chaplaincy volunteering at The Samaritan Center

Giving for a Common Good: Fraternities and Sororities Compete for the Inaugural Hendricks Cup

Monday, April 15, 2024, By Dara Harper

On March 27 there was energy in the air for Syracuse University’s 2024 Giving Day. This year, for the first time, Hendricks Chapel partnered with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Affairs and the Interfraternity Council to gather support for the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry.

Fraternities and sororities rallied their members and friends to contribute, and as the day unfolded, the remarkable generosity of these groups was made apparent. “We are all so grateful for the overwhelming response to this first-ever Hendricks Cup challenge. With over $300,000 raised, our Syracuse University students were the true winners,” said Alison Murray, assistant dean for student assistance at Hendricks Chapel, acknowledging the immense impact of the day’s efforts.

A staggering total of $333,192 was raised for the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry on the 2024 Syracuse Giving Day, a testament to the collective spirit of giving within the Syracuse University campus community. Among the 1,280 donors, 984 identified as being affiliated with Fraternities and Sororities, accounting for a significant portion of the overall contributions.

In addition to financial contributions, the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry also received 1,484 in-kind donations as part of the Hendricks Cup challenge, which stocked the pantry shelves and made an immediate impact in support of those in need.

Reflecting on the day’s events, Rev. Dr. Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel, expressed profound gratitude for the overwhelming response: “Witnessing the energy and efforts of Syracuse University’s Giving Day was a spark of inspiration and appreciation. For the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry to be on the receiving end of such extraordinary generosity—especially among our students—is an honor and joy that far exceeded my expectations.”

Following a final tally of in-kind contributions, total donors and dollars, and percentage of respective membership involvement, the inaugural Hendricks Cup trophy was awarded to Theta Chi, with Phi Kappa Psi in second place and Delta Tau Delta in third. “I am incredibly proud of the effort that each Greek organization put into the Hendricks Cup. The Greek Community absolutely exploded with support and participation,” said Tage Oster, president of the Interfraternity Council.

Five people standing together for a photo

Members of Theta Chi (from left to right) Tage Oster, Jake Bransfield, David Ritacco and Drew Maier with Dean Konkol.

As Syracuse University’s Giving Day for 2024 concluded, the importance of community, compassion and collaboration were top of mind. “I am left humbled by the outstanding leadership of campus partners in the Division of the Student Experience and the Office of Advancement and External Affairs, as their shared efforts will help us all to impact more students, which then helps students to impact our world,” said Dean Konkol.

The Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry is open to all Syracuse University and State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) students who may be experiencing food insecurity. The pantry provides supplemental shelf-stable foods, produce, personal hygiene products, and more at no cost to students. For more information on how to donate to or receive food from the pantry, please visit The Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry web page.

Historic Gift Launches $3M Challenge Campaign for Hendricks Chapel

Monday, March 25, 2024, By Dara Harper

A historic gift to Hendricks Chapel, the largest since its dedication in 1930, will launch a $3 million Challenge Campaign to enrich student life and learning through the spiritual heart of Syracuse University.

As a home for all faiths and place for all people, Hendricks Chapel hosts nine chaplaincies, more than 25 student-led religious and spiritual life groups, and sponsors over 2,000 programs for more than 600,000 annual attendees. Hendricks Chapel employs student workers; supports musical ensembles; offers support through the Student Opportunity Fund, Student Veteran Support Fund and the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry; and also partners throughout the campus community to advance academic excellence at a university welcoming to all.

The recent anonymous gift will be used to support various chapel programs and initiatives, to prepare engaged citizens, scholars and leaders for participation in a changing global society.

Through the connection of family members who attended Syracuse University, two of whom were married at Hendricks Chapel, the donors are inspired by the chapel’s mission and want to support its efforts through an unrestricted gift that inspires others to give. “I like the idea of universities having an opportunity to be brought together in a spiritual and religious setting,” says a member of the family. “The focused effort required to learn a field of endeavor during your college years needs to be balanced with a constant reminder that each field’s ultimate purpose is to advance goodness in the world.”

The gift will launch the $3 million Hendricks Chapel Challenge Gift Campaign. The donors have already committed to $1 million. If Syracuse University alumni, parents, friends and other supporters can raise an additional $1 million by June 30, the family will give another $1 million, for a total of $3 million in support of Hendricks Chapel. All donations to any Hendricks Chapel funds by June 30, 2024, will count toward the Hendricks Chapel Challenge Gift Campaign. “For Hendricks Chapel to be on the receiving end of such remarkable generosity is an honor and a joy,” said Reverend Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel. “This gift will help us to impact more students, which help our students to impact our world.”

The initial $1 million gift has already made a significant impact:

  • “We are very blessed to be receiving funds from Hendricks Chapel this year. Some of these funds are being used to bring an ASL [American Sign Language] interpreter to our 12:10 p.m. Mass on Wednesday afternoons,” says Father Gerry Waterman, Catholic chaplain.
  • “It is hard to put into words the enormous impact that Hendricks Chapel’s support has on the Syracuse Hillel community. We are so grateful for our partnership with the chapel. In addition to thought partnership, strategic support and the benefits of a community of practice, grants from the chapel have enabled Hillel to inspire students as they embrace Shabbat and holiday traditions here on campus,” says Jillian Juni, executive director of Syracuse Hillel.
  • “Hendricks Chapel has supported our many service trips. Through these trips, students have engaged in compassion-oriented service work, providing food and water filtration, and replacing roofs after the destruction of Hurricane Maria. Over 70 students have benefited from our trips to Puerto Rico, New York City and Nepal over the years,” says Rev. Devon Bartholomew, nondenominational Christian protestant chaplain.
  • “Thanks to Hendricks Chapel I was able to study abroad, which has drastically shaped my Syracuse experience, allowing me to learn more about myself and the world around us,” says Leondra Tyler, student coordinator for the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry.
  • “Funding from Hendricks Chapel helps the Hendricks Chapel Choir stay connected to the campus community, and to the artistic community around our state, our nation, and our world,” says José “Peppie” Calvar, DMA, director of the Hendricks Chapel Choir.
  • “Funding from Hendricks Chapel enables our group to expand its programming, makes it easier to accommodate religious observances like Ramadan Iftars, and gives our students additional opportunities to gather and connect in meaningful and creative ways without the burden of financial constraints. It was pivotal in building our community, sense of belonging, and student connections, which have increased enrollment, participation and engagement,” says Imam Amir Durić, Muslim chaplain.

For more information or to support the Hendricks Chapel Challenge Gift Campaign before June 30, 2024, please visit givetosu.syr.edu/HendricksChapel or contact Jeff Comanici at jjcomani@syr.edu or 315.420.9330.

Find more about Hendricks Chapel’s events and programming at chapel.syracuse.edu.

About Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University

Orange isn’t just our color. It’s our promise to leave the world better than we found it. Forever Orange: The Campaign for Syracuse University is poised to do just that. Fueled by more than 150 years of fearless firsts, together we can enhance academic excellence, transform the student experience and expand unique opportunities for learning and growth. Forever Orange endeavors to raise $1.5 billion in philanthropic support, inspire 125,000 individual donors to participate in the campaign, and actively engage one in five alumni in the life of the University. Now is the time to show the world what Orange can do. Visit foreverorange.syr.edu to learn more.

The Power of Faith: Fostering Community for Muslim Students With Imam Amir Durić (Podcast)

Tuesday, March 12, 2024, By John Boccacino

Check out the latest ‘Cuse Conversations featuring our imam, Amir Durić.

“With the holy month of Ramadan underway, Durić stopped by to share his thoughts on the role an Imam plays on campus, describe the core tenets of Islam and address the biggest misconceptions surrounding the religion. He also discusses his groundbreaking research on the Muslim student experiences on college campuses across the country and explains how an interfaith collaboration with Rabbi Ethan Bair brought together Muslim and Jewish students to learn more about each other’s beliefs and values.”

Seven Reasons to Attend Interfaith Exploration Week 

Hendricks Chapel of Syracuse University is celebrating religious and spiritual diversity and inclusion through Interfaith Exploration Week from Feb. 5-11, 2024. All students, faculty, and staff are invited to participate in a series of gatherings that provide an opportunityto learn about diverse religious and spiritual traditions, rediscover familiar traditions, and build relationships and understanding across barriers. Hosted by the Chaplains of Hendricks Chapel, participants can attend Jumuah prayer, a Buddhist meditation, Catholic Mass, Shabbat dinner and more. The week will conclude with a special Interfaith Dinner and Conversation with the Student Assembly of Interfaith Leaders on Sunday, February 11 from 5:00-6:00 P.M. For the full schedule and details, visit our website.   

Here are seven reasons you may want to explore: 

  1. Learn about other faith communities. You may have a Jewish friend who you met in the residence hall, but you don’t know a great deal about Judaism. Interfaith Exploration Week is a ideal time to learn about your friends and their beliefs.  
  2. Deepen your sense of religious and spiritual diversity. If you have been raised in a particular faith community, attending university may be the first time you’ve met Buddhists, Muslims, Baptists, etc. One of the best ways to create understanding is to observe another’s practice.  
  3. Find your own community of faith. Leaving home also means leaving your home place of worship. Finding a faith community at school can offer a home away from home. Additionally, you may find yourself ready to create new opportunities as you expand your center of understanding. 
  4. Have Fun! It’s just fun to be with new people in new places! 
  5. Meet the chaplains. Did you know that our chaplains are confidential resources? If you are in crisis or just need someone to talk to, you can meet with any of our chaplains. Each chaplain is here to support our entire student body, regardless of your spiritual, religious, or non-religious practice. 
  6. Make friends! In these programs, you will meet new people. Perhaps you’ve seen them in your residence hall or in class but have never had a chance to connect. Now you’ll have an experience in common! 
  7. Hendricks Chapel is a “home for all faiths and a place all people. With 15 chaplains and more than 25 student and religious groups, Hendricks Chapel celebrates and observes many traditions. At Interfaith Exploration Week events, you can ask questions, learn, and experience concepts new to you! 

“Interfaith Exploration Week is an opportunity to create and sustain curiosity, understanding and expression,” said Brian Konkol, dean of Hendricks Chapel. “We hope that all participants can learn about others, and also learn about themselves, all in service to our common good.” 

Interfaith Exploration Week is organized by the Student Assembly of Interfaith Leaders (SAIL), chaplains, religious and spiritual life group advisors, and the staff of Hendricks Chapel.  

To learn more about Interfaith Exploration Week, visit our website, call us at email 315.443.2901 or email chapel@syr.edu.

Hendricks Chapel Welcomes New Assistant Dean

As Hendricks Chapel continues to lead in service to our common good through religious, spiritual, moral, and ethical life, we are delighted to welcome our new Assistant Dean for Student Assistance at Hendricks Chapel, Alison C.J. Murray ’01.  

As the Assistant Dean for Student Assistance, Alison is responsible for religious and spiritual outreach programs and services that offer assistance to students in need of holistic support. In partnership with the Office of Community Engagement and Government Relations, and through a commitment to strategic thinking and transformational leadership, Alison will be responsible for the Hendricks Chapel Food Pantry, Student Opportunity Fund, and Student Veteran Support Fund, and will collaborate with students, chaplains, faculty, staff, and campus and community partners to develop, implement, align, evaluate, and improve the efforts of Hendricks Chapel focused on at-risk students, to ensure all students at Syracuse University are provided with opportunities to thrive. 

Alison is a widely respected and highly accomplished leader, having served in the U.S. Army for over 20 years, with management experience in nursing, health administration, patient care technologies, and training. In addition to earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Syracuse University, she holds a Master of Science from Central Michigan University, a Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Washington, and currently teaches a course on health professions at Onondaga Community College. As we continue to expand the impact of Hendricks Chapel on campus and beyond, we are overjoyed to welcome Alison Murray as a new and vital member of our team. To connect with Alison, please email her at acmurray@syr.edu or call her at 315.443.9388.

Syracuse University To Present Art Exhibit At The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Syracuse University’s 39th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration will include an art gallery exhibit in Club 44 on the western concourse level of the JMA Wireless Dome.

To express the celebration theme of “The Reach of the Dream,” seven local artists were selected to show their works in the specially designed gallery, which will be open to the public on Sunday, Jan. 21, 2024, before and during the celebration dinner. The art gallery will open at 4:15 p.m. and the dinner will begin at 5 p.m. For more information, visit mlk.syr.edu.

The exhibition will spotlight artists Professor Emeritus David MacDonald, Professor London Ladd, Professor Sharif Bey, Brandan Meyer, Professor Rochele Royster, Melquea Smith, and Iris Williams. Curators for the exhibition include Qiana Williams, Jaleel Campbell and Cjala Surratt of the Black Artists’ Collective; Ken Harper, associate professor of visual communications and art curator in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications; Ajajielle Brown of the Department of African-American Studies, Emily Dittman of the Syracuse University Art Museum, and Dara Harper of Hendricks Chapel.

THE ARTISTS

Sharif Bey, PhD is a Syracuse-based artist and educator. Shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, Bey studied sculpture at The Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia. Later, he earned his BFA from Slippery Rock University, his MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and PhD (in art education) from Penn State University. His awards include: The United States Artist Fellowship, The Pollock-Krasner Fellowship, and The New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship. Bey’s works are featured in numerous public collections including: The Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, The Carnegie Museum of Art, The Columbus Museum, The Dallas Museum of Art, The Mint Museum, and The Nelson Atkins Museum among others.

London Ladd has featured artwork in critically acclaimed picture books, newspapers, magazines, and community-based murals. His artwork is a mixture of acrylic paint, cut paper, and tissue paper, to create rich, vibrant textures that bring his artwork to life. Ladd’s illustrations can be found in the books: “Black Gold,” “Oprah: The Little Speaker,” “Under the Freedom Tree,” and “March On!: The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World.” He is an instructor at Syracuse University’s College of Visual & Performing Arts and resides in Syracuse, NY.

David R. MacDonald, professor emeritus at Syracuse University, is an acclaimed and celebrated ceramic artist, who has lived in Syracuse for many years. MacDonald joined the faculty of the School of Art and Design at Syracuse University in 1971. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, MacDonald’s work received most of its creative inspiration from his investigation of his African heritage. MacDonald draws much of his inspiration from the myriad examples of surface decoration that manifests itself in the many ethnic groups of sub-Saharan Africa. MacDonald’s work spans the complete spectrum of ceramic forms of a utilitarian nature.

Brandan Meyer is a local CNY Ceramicist from Syracuse. Studying at SUNY Oswego, his primary focus is on evolving his craft as a ceramic artist and exploring his capabilities through the medium. This is expressed through his pottery, as well as his experimentation with clay instruments. Finding inspiration from his political ideologies, familial heritage, and personal connections, he creates work that not only reflects his roots, but sparks conversation that revolves around culture, empathy and unity.

Rochele Royster PhD, ATR-BC, is a seasoned artist, community psychologist, and educator who finds inspiration from people and community. Her upbringing, immersed in the rhythms of the South, was a fertile ground for creativity, where she learned the importance of the connection to land, rituals, and customs, and people. Proficient in quilting, printmaking, and various dye and resist techniques, Rochele breathes new life into discarded materials, crafting narratives that echo themes of blackness and the resilience of ordinary individuals navigating worlds where patterns become as integral as the people they adorn. Through a meticulous examination of life’s rhythms, Rochele Royster invites viewers to reflect on the resilience and beauty that persist amidst life’s clutter and chaos.

Melquea Smith is a Black, Queer, multi award-winning children’s book illustrator based in New York. Known as a certified kid at heart, she adores illustrating magical stories with animals, mythological creatures, and dragons. She specializes in illustrating Black children of all shapes, colors, and sizes. When not illustrating, you’ll find her watching the newest animated movies, learning about Japan, studying Spanish with her cat Kilala, and giving her other cat Bumblebee pit-pats on her super fluffy tummy.

Iris Williams is a visual artist born and raised in Syracuse, New York. She has a passion for bringing her creative ideas to life. She is heavily influenced by the Black community and finds it important to find innovative ways to include, empower, and represent it in her projects. She experiments with various art forms, refusing to limit herself to just one. However, her authentic and creative expression has led her to develop a particular interest in digital art.

“We’re excited to highlight the talents of these extraordinary Black artists and champion the richness of Syracuse’s artistic community,” said Cjala Surratt, co-founder of the Black Artists Collective and member of the MLK Art Gallery Committee. “This exhibition recognizes both established and emerging talent within Syracuse’s artistic landscape and promises to be a source of inspiration for individuals of all ages. We hope to spark creativity, ignite curiosity, and foster a deeper connection with the arts.”

Tickets for the dinner and program, which will include student and community group performances, presentation of the Unsung Hero Awards and a keynote address from the featured speaker Dr. Talithia Williams are now available.

MORE ABOUT THE CELEBRATION

Our 2024 program marks the 39th year for the MLK Celebration and will include an address from Talithia Williams, student and community group performances, and a presentation of this year’s Unsung Hero Awards.

The art gallery will open at 4:15 PM and dinner will open at 5 PM. Halal/Kosher, gluten-free and vegetarian options will be available. Dinner will be held near the JMA Dome’s west end zone, entry at Gate A. The main program includes:

  • Presentation of 2024 Unsung Hero Awards
  • Keynote speaker Talithia Williams on “The Reach of the Dream.”
  • The Community Choir with the Syracuse University Black Celestial Choral Ensemble
  • More performers will be announced soon!

The program will be held at the east side of the dome.
For program-only attendees, doors open at 6 PM.

Ticket purchase options are as follows:

  • General Admission (dinner, art gallery, and program): $30
  • Students (dinner, art gallery, and program): $15
  • Main program only: FREE

Registration is required for all ticket purchase options.

All dinner tickets will be assigned a table number at the time of purchase. Guests interested in sitting with friends are recommended to purchase tickets together to ensure the same table assignment.

Guests may order up to 10 dinner and program tickets online. To purchase one full table (10 seats), select 10 total tickets and proceed to checkout. To purchase more than one table or more than 10 individual tickets, or if experiencing difficulties, please call the JMA Dome Box Office at 1.888.DOME.TIX (315.443.2121), option four.

All dinner guests will be seated in the 100 level of the stands for the program following dinner. All guests attending the program only will be seated in the 200 level. Seating is general admission in those areas for the program.

Buy tickets online at mlk.syr.edu, in person at the Dome Box Office inside Gate B at 900 Irving Ave. (Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or by phone 1.888.DOME.TIX or 315.443.2121, option four). Tickets will be mobile this year and uploaded directly to your MyCuse account to manage upon purchase. View the step-by-step guide on mobile ticketing for more information.

Free parking is available in the Irving Avenue Garage and in lots west of the JMA Dome. Visit the University’s Parking and Transit Services website for maps and directions. American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be available for the event. Accessible seating is provided on the concourse level of the JMA Dome.

For more information about the MLK Celebration or to request accommodations, contact Hendricks Chapel at chapel@syr.edu or 315.443.2901. Learn more about this and other Hendricks Chapel events by visiting chapel.syracuse.edu.

Talithia Williams to Serve as Featured Speaker for 39th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Talithia Williams, Ph.D., big data expert, math professor and host of “NOVA Wonders,” will serve as featured speaker at the 39th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration on Sunday, Jan. 21, in the JMA Wireless Dome.

This year’s theme is “The Reach of the Dream.”

Tickets for the dinner and program are now available.

This annual event is the largest of its kind on any college campus. The program seeks to honor the message and mission of King and is a direct expression of the University’s commitment to advancing academic excellence at a university welcoming to all.

“We are honored and delighted to welcome Dr. Talithia Williams to Syracuse as our featured speaker for the 39th Annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr event. As we prepare to remember and honor the roots of a dream that continue to inform and inspire, Dr. Williams serves as a living reminder of how far the dream can reach,” says Dean Brian Konkol of Hendricks Chapel. “Through her groundbreaking research and steadfast commitment to community impact, Dr. Williams is transforming the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. At our upcoming event, I am confident that learners of all ages will be left inspired to dream big and strive to make such dreams come true.”

Williams, associate professor of mathematics and Mathematics Clinic director at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, is an innovative statistician, co-host of the PBS series “NOVA Wonders” and a speaker whose popular TED Talk, “Own Your Body’s Data,” extols the value of statistics in quantifying personal health information. Williams demystifies the mathematical process in amusing and insightful ways to excite students, parents, educators and the larger community about STEM education and its possibilities.

Williams graduated from Spelman College and Howard University, and then later received a Ph.D. from Rice University. Her research involves developing statistical models that emphasize the spatial and temporal structure of data and applying them to problems in the environment. She’s worked at NASA, the National Security Agency and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and has partnered with the World Health Organization on research regarding cataract surgical rates in African countries.

At Syracuse University Williams’ topic will be “Becoming an Agent of Change for Inclusive Education.” By showing how educational systems are microcosms of our increasingly diverse society, Williams will address how to close achievement gaps and serve as inclusive agents of positive and profound change. In her keynote presentation, Williams hopes to inspire educators and learners or all ages by showing how data can be utilized to promote diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility.

“As a neurodivergent nontraditional student, I am excited to hear Dr. Williams speak about the importance of diversity and inclusion within education,” says Leondra Tyler ’24, co-chair of the 2024 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration. “I believe it is important to shed light on how we can pave the way for future academics and leaders who will bring positive change to our world.”

The 2024 program will include an address from Williams, student and community group performances, and a presentation of this year’s Unsung Hero Awards.

The newly introduced art gallery that features works from local Black artists will open at 4:15 p.m. The traditional dinner will open at 5 p.m. Halal/Kosher, gluten-free and vegetarian options will be available. Dinner will be held near the JMA Dome’s west end zone, entry at Gate A. The main program with Williams and performers will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the east side. For program-only attendees, doors open at 6 p.m.

Ticket purchase options are as follows:

  • Syracuse University staff, faculty and the general public (dinner and program): $30
  • Students (dinner and program): $15
  • Main program only: Free

Registration is required for all ticket purchase options.

All dinner tickets will be assigned a table number at the time of purchase, which will be included in the mobile tickets. Guests interested in sitting with friends are recommended to purchase tickets together to ensure the same table assignment.

Guests may order up to 10 dinner and program tickets online. To purchase one full table (10 seats), select 10 total tickets and proceed to checkout. To purchase more than one table or more than 10 individual tickets, or if experiencing difficulties, please call the JMA Dome Box Office at 1.888.DOME.TIX (315.443.2121), option four.

All dinner guests will be seated in the 100 level of the stands for the program following dinner. All guests attending the program only will be seated in the 200 level. Seating is general admission in those areas for the program.

Buy tickets online at mlk.syr.edu, in person at the Dome Box Office inside Gate B at 900 Irving Ave. (Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) or by phone (888.DOME.TIX or 315.443.2121, option four). Tickets will be mobile and will be uploaded directly to your MyCuse account to manage upon purchase. View the step-by-step guide on mobile ticketing for more information.

Free parking is available in the Irving Avenue Garage and in lots west of the JMA Dome. Visit the University’s Parking and Transit Services website for maps and directions. American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation and Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) will be available at the event. Accessible seating is provided on the concourse level of the JMA Dome.

For more information about the MLK Celebration or to request accommodations, contact Hendricks Chapel at chapel@syr.edu or 315.443.2901. Learn more about this and other Hendricks Chapel events by visiting chapel.syracuse.edu.

Student Assembly of Interfaith Leaders (SAIL): Building Empathy and Shared Purpose at Syracuse University

By Dara Harper

 

Twice per month, a group of students gather in Hendricks Chapel for dinner and meaningful interfaith conversation. From Muslim to Christian, Hindu to Jewish, and many others in-between, these students gather to learn and listen. The Student Assembly of Interfaith Leaders’ mission includes “deepening our understanding of each other’s faiths, as this knowledge is the foundation for building bridges of unity, empathy and shared purpose.” The group chooses a variety of discussion topics to cover throughout the semester including themes like lunar & solar calendars, holidays, symbolism, food, sacred texts, religious tools & altars, myths, core values and more.

To develop a foundation for the current academic year, the Student Assembly of Interfaith Leaders (SAIL) chose the recent introductory topic of “Fostering Mutual Familiarity.” The convener of the group, Mian Muhammad Abdul Hamid ’25, who attends the School of Information Studies, said this in his welcome letter to the group: “We aim to be in the process of promoting understanding, respecting, and building knowledge between individuals and groups of different religious backgrounds. We embark on this journey of discovery and mutual respect. Please come prepared to share, listen, and learn from one another’s faith experiences. Together, we will continue to build bridges that connect us in the spirit of harmony.”

Mian Muhammad Abdul Hamid ’25 explains the purpose of the SAIL meeting.

Hamid, who is a leader in the Muslim Student Association (MSA), credits his fellow SAIL member Ren Morton with the topic of “Fostering Mutual Familiarity.” Morton is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Social Science at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is a co-leader for Syracuse University’s Pagan Association known as SPIRAL. Hamid was concerned that the students would be afraid to share their beliefs and opinions, so he was grateful to see that multiple students spoke up repeatedly and were excited to learn and share their own traditions. “By introducing this topic, students will be able to be aware of different faiths, and we can later jump into deeper topics and gain better understanding of one another’s faith,” said Hamid.

Morton is a Ph.D. graduate student and the only parent in the group. She feels that creating a safe space is important and she hopes that the group will continue to connect SAIL members, especially when there are global concerns. “I believe strongly in the axiom that there is more that unites us than divides us. Familiarity and friendship, practicing respect for other people’s beliefs, and understanding the nature of religious conflict and religious trauma can go a long way in de-escalating tensions. Tensions can be from the past, in the present, or may arise in the future,” said Morton. “It is my hope that all those who participate in SAIL will leave with more compassion and appreciation for other religions, going on to embody that appreciation in their spaces and practices.”

Those gathered at SAIL recognize how their own judgements can sometimes stunt the ability to connect with those outside of their own worldview. To this, Hamid quoted a companion of the Prophet Muhammad, Umar Ibn Al-Khattab: “We judge by what is apparent and we leave their inner secrets to Allah (God).”

With Al-Khattab’s statement and his participation in SAIL, Hamid is extra cautious because people follow different faiths for many reasons. He goes on to say, “After participating in SAIL, I am more open-minded to hearing interfaith peers and their outlook on life. I believe SAIL influenced me to not be judgmental and to be more open.”

Yapan Liu, who represents the Chinese Christian Fellowship, offers his perspective to the group.

Kayla Cuttito ’25 is one of the newest members of SAIL. Cuttito is a double major in Political Science and Environment Sustainability & Policy with minors in Geography and Policy Studies at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is excited to be part of the group and notes, “It’s very inspiring to be part of this community of individuals who are empowered by their experiences to share their faith with others.”

Through the years of SAIL’s existence, Hendricks Chapel’s associate dean Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz has enjoyed seeing the spiritual progress and thoughtfulness of so many students. As the advisor to SAIL, Kantrowitz oversees each meeting and brings wisdom as an advisory board member for Interfaith Works of CNY. “It brings me immense joy to commune with these incredible student leaders,” she said. “We grow and grow during the meetings. I learn something new each time we meet.”

Members of SAIL stand with advisor Associate Dean Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz and convener, Mian Muhammad Abdul Hamid ’25.

SAIL is comprised of representatives from the 25 religious and spiritual life groups of Hendricks Chapel and seek for participants to develop as interfaith leaders and to function as a student advisory committee for the dean of Hendricks Chapel, Rev. Brian Konkol. Those who are interested in participating are encouraged to connect with convener Mian Muhammad Abdul Hamid or advisor Rebecca Reed Kantrowitz to gain more information.